(RNS) — For more than 35 years, Jayrod Garrett’s life was immersed in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He fondly remembers going on a missionary trip to Hawaii, participating in a scouts program and making lifelong friends. He also recalls how hurt he felt when a church leader didn’t believe him when a group of kids called him the N-word or how tough it was grappling with the church’s stance against gay marriage.

In 2016, after years of feeling conflicted, Garrett left the church.

Now, he identifies as an atheist.

He has adopted a new set of ideals, acknowledging that “meaning comes from making a difference” and that “people are more important than beliefs.”

But life as an atheist isn’t any less

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